In twenty years we have been asked to work on dozens of strategies gone bad or simply missing the mark. We have also been asked to create from scratch dozens more. Our approach is always the same: illuminate the context, or background that is the source for all the ideas in the first place. Get to the foundational assumptions and givens. Question them, examine them, keep some, and discard others. Build a robust skill set around this practice and institutionalize it everywhere in the organization.
We are always surprised. Almost everybody skips this crucial step of strategic design: consultancies, top teams, and thought leaders alike. The cost of this omission is quite high. It is impossible to get to something truly new if the old ideas still rule the day – and they will rule if they are left unconscious and unexamined during the strategy creation process.
We like to say that great strategy strives to incorporate two types of complexity. The first includes what can be seen and tested for in the form of facts, figures, and data. The second includes what cannot be seen but holds tremendous relevance nonetheless. We refer here to the values, beliefs and past experiences of the people making the strategy.
If you want Archimedes lever for strategy, deepen the awareness of the strategy makers. Go from the typical model on the left that at best gives you a handful of options to the one on the right that changes the entire game.